Reality is Enough

“Life is not a bed of roses.” That’s what Babuji said in a Whisper from the Brighter World on April 19th of this year, which I’ve attached to the bottom of this post. He went on to talk about how life’s challenges are essential to the process of evolution and it all ties back into so much that I’ve read throughout the Sahaj literature – It’s because life is not a bed of roses that we’re not impressed by the idea of a life of sannyas or retreating to the Himalayas permanently to seek enlightenment. From the very beginning of life – period – the only evolution that’s ever happened has occurred because of a challenge or stimulus faced. “Trials are necessary and formative; without them there would be nothing to drive things forward,” he says. I have always said that, as human beings, we’re endowed with a unique and highly-evolved ability to learn without the need for misery. But that doesn’t in any way conflict with the idea that life would come inherent with trials. Trials are necessary. Misery? Pain? Suffering? Those are fully optional.

The month of June, for me, was kinda full where trials are concerned. Most of May, for that matter, too. I was approached by a zonal coordinator wondering if I’d ever considered serving as a preceptor and I was thrilled at the idea. For anyone unfamiliar, this role comes with no glory. As I understand, it’s mostly an opportunity to plug in deeper and serve on a greater, more thankless scale than other abhyasis. Still, that’s exactly what sounded good to me. I’m always happy to assist my local Heartfulness community – be it financially, with my time, with my meditations, or with any skills I possess which will help further our cause. And to be clear – I do or have done all of those things and there’s never been time when I’ve been told “no” to serving because I’m not a prefect. But still, the idea of serving as a prefect made me happy and so I agreed to become a candidate.

I’m a little sad to report, however, (and I do mean only a little) that my candidacy was not successful. After doing what most people would considering jumping through hoops as part of an embarrassingly, insanely disorganized process, and receiving what many would interpret to be positive signs along the way, it was ultimately decided that I would not be chosen. My region / zone did have others who were put forth as candidates and some have been successful. And it’s not uncommon at all for a candidate to be refused on the first try, or the second try, or the third, etc… I know of abhyasis who were so taken with the idea of being a prefect / preceptor that they would approach the current Master in tears because of it and be refused multiple times. The only part of my unsuccessful candidacy that truly ever bothered me (and this is less the case than when things were fresh) is that there was very little in the way of productive feedback given. We all had to study like CRAZY. We had to have read many of the Sahaj Marg works. We had to pass a test which took me, personally, something like six full hours to complete. We had to do a number of other things just to be considered – and that’s truly just fine. Most of those ridiculous hoops jumped through were, at a minimum, for the sake of showing who we were, exhibiting our commitment, and demonstrating that we’d invested in our own understanding of the Marg. These are all good hoops to make people jump through.

But then the answer came and was hardly more than a “No.” (To be clear, it WAS more than a flat ‘No,’ but hardly.) I can say with all honesty and no bitterness that this was the toughest part to accept. Nothing was communicated in regard to whether I passed the written test or whether I hadn’t had enough sittings or really in regard to any of the other hoops which were jumped through just to be considered. All of this process wrapped up just before I made the trip to New Jersey to see Daaji – except I never saw him. I mean, I did see him – once a day or so, from about 30 feet away. Common sense, and some private conversations, told me that there were others in Newark that weekend which were also rejected in this way. To my knowledge there was never a concern for helping these failed aspirants understand the nature of our rejection or how to reapply more effectively. No compass was given so that I could better myself as a candidate – which, obviously, is all for the sake of serving Heartfulness on a deeper level.

That’s something I still think about from time to time, but anyone who knows me at all also knows my life is anything but stagnate. It was around this same time that I was very afraid of leaving Indiana, even for a weekend, because a dear friend of mine was expected to pass away at any time. She didn’t pass until a few weeks after the New Jersey weekend but when she left, I think she took something with me. I’m still trying to sort that out fully, and with any luck I’ll write about it here – but don’t bank on that. The weekend after the failed prefector candidacy was finalized, I had to hop right back into grhasta life and keep moving. Always moving. Always.

Sometimes reality is challenging. But it is what it is.  Being turned away as a prefect, everything leading up to that, and then Leah’s death which followed after was enough for a significant shift in my perspective. Fires of change felt SO hot during that period and I’m certain some dross I’d been carrying was burnt away. I do recognize a difference – a very clear before and after, although tough to put words to it. The whisper shared here was something shared with me by a local prefect – the one who’d put me up as a candidate. I was actually reading it from having received it on my own when she sent it to me along with the words, “Reality is enough, and as such, all is well.” Babuji was our guide, two guides ago. At different times in my Sahaj journey I’ve felt my connection to him more strongly than at other times, usually feeling more attuned to Lalaji, but I can tell you Babuji hit the nail on the head in the whisper given.

“Reality is enough, and as such, all is well.”

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

 

Whisper

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Reality: Static & Dynamic

My contribution to this post will be minimal because I plan to share original content from another source. If you’re interested, you can look into the Complete Works of Ram Chandra, Volume One. Else, please continue reading below for excerpts I’ve pulled from a chapter titled, “Reality – Its Static and Dynamic Aspects” which deals with how God is defined.


There has been a great deal of controversy over the question of the existence of God, the Ultimate Reality. The real problem of my mind, is not that of proving or disproving the existence of an Eternal Absolute but that of defining it in an adequate and satisfactory way. The factor of blind and enthusiastic faith, created and strengthened by individual miseries and cravings in different cultural contexts, has added more and more confusions. Consequently, the man of reason and thought rightly feels disgusted at the very mention of the word “God.”

There are various conceptions of the Ultimate Reality. People look upon Him differently according to their capacity and understanding… But philosophic view includes the idea of Nirguna Brahman (Indeterminate Absolute) which is above all multiplicity and distinction. This Nirguna Brahman is regarded to be the ultimate cause and substratum of existence, the superactive center of the entire manifestation. It is also known as Para Brahman.

Next comes the idea of God as Supreme Existence. We see the universe with all its diversities and differentiations and we are led to believe in its creator and controller. We call him Ishwara, or Saguna Brahman (Determinate Absolute). We think of him as an Eternal Existence which is omipotent and omniscient, posessing all the finest attributes. He is the efficient cause of the world and also its preserver and destroyer.

It is only when viewed from the lower standpoint that God becomes an object of worship, which is the final approach of almost all the religions. This Saguna Brahman is also known as Apara Brahman. Much is said in religious books about the above-mentioned two conceptions. Some think that the concept of indeterminate or attributeless God is better than that of determinate God. Others hold just the opposite view. In fact, both of them are erring… There are no doubt the two ways, but the goal is one… Both the conceptions, as generally understood, are greatly misleading. Truly God is neither Nirguna nor Saguna, but is beyond both… It is we who conceive Him to be Nirguna; and it is we who make him Saguna. What we must do to avoid these quarrels is that we must fix our view on the original element (Adi Tattva) – be it Nirguna or Saguna. Whatever it is we must love it.

Religion is only a preliminary stage for preparing a man for his march on the path for freedom. The end of religion is the beginning of spirituality; the end of spirituality is the beginning of Reality; and the end of Reality is the real Bliss. When that too is gone, we have reached the destination. This is the highest mark which is almost inexpressible in words.

Thus God is not to be found within the folds of a particular religion or sect. He is neither to be confined within certain forms or rituals nor is He to be traced out within the scriptures. Him we have to seek in the innermost core of our heart.


After this post, I’ll add another to pick up where this left off. The next will begin by starting at the place of understanding held by an Atheist and will employ some basic mathematical concepts to illustrate.

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

वह दुखो और वह रमण

There are days when you have to reconnect with friends you’d lost touch with and have a glass of wine. Or two. This happened with me recently and it was an experience. For starters, allow me to just state that I attract ALL manner of folk. My beloved and my best can verify this.

You might be a mentally ill dude who sees cake topper candy as real food. You might be an aging man who’s spent his entire life stifling your sexuality, only to come out too late to really get anywhere this time around and then spend your days secretly seeking penis while outwardly claiming that you seek genuine connections, apparently not realizing you’re shooting yourself in your own foot. You might be a tall, lanky middle aged gentleman translator with hair I’m a little jealous of who offers decent wine when I’m over. You might be my math professor and his wife. You might be another, rare, white Hindu who just happens to get around on some wheels instead of some feet. I could probably go on and on about the randomness of the variety of people in my life and who I call friends. But I’m not really in the mood for that, and besides spades often take exception to being called a spade, even when there’s no harmful intent.

Anyway, Wednesday of this week was a doozey for me. I’d been battling a head cold, but managed to be feeling exceptionally better that day. (This would prove to be a VERY temporary reprieve, as I awoke Thursday sicker than I’d been the prior three days combined.) A friend of mine, who I briefly mentioned at the beginning of this post, taught me about me without even knowing.

I think we met off of the Internet. Craigslist, I think. I’m sure I’d posted some crazy “Hey who wants a friend” kind of ad (no wonder my small group of associates is so random!), and this kind soul responded. He’s brilliant in his own way. And, although I’m fond of climbing trees in bare feet, having amazing and life-threatening river adventures, and dancing ridiculously and often scantily clad before my menagerie of pets, this guy seems freer than I. I can’t quite place it, but I really think he is.

I’ll spare the details of our conversations, but through speaking with him recently, I was reminded of two things that are absolutely important. The first is that you MUST live your own dharma as fully as you are able. Very few other people are qualified to tell you what your dharma might entail. You must do the leg work to discern your dharma, your truest path in life, and then do more leg work to actualize it daily. The second thing is this: No swadharma (individual’s dharma, truest path) is better than anyone else’s. How my karmas play out should be irrelevant to you and vice versa.

These two unexpected reminders were welcome, I’ll say.

After hanging out with this gentleman, I rushed home as quickly as possible to get my Skype on with an out-of-state non-Indian Hindu who interviewed me for a documentary he’s putting together. He’d given me some good questions beforehand to prepare with and it was nice to speak with him live, although not without headache! (My first time using Skype in Windows 8, and it about sent me into orbit.) I’ve seen another video or two that he’s made and he seems to do well with the tools he uses. I’m hopeful that the fruits of his labors will produce something of quality that can be shared on Youtube and other outlets for folks to view.

Om Shanti

Bhakt’

In the last post I scratched the surface on a three-part series I’m planning to write about my understanding of the nature of the Hindu conception of God, and also where I personally have encountered the highest concentration of This in my own life. Before continuing in this post, you’ll want to have read the one before this. Inform yourself here. As mentioned in the post before this, Ganesha deva holds a particular place in my swadharma. In this post I’d like to attempt to explain how trying my hand at devotion (Ganesha = my ishtadevata) brought me to a higher knowledge regarding Truth. Right now, I’m not terribly confident that my thought processes or use of words will serve as I hope, but if you care to continue reading, you’ll have my best effort.

Bhakti, or devotion, was the first component at play in my being transfixed on the Ideal that is Ganesha. I came to know of Him almost the very instant I came to know anything at all about Hinduism. Perhaps love/devotion at first sight? LOL No, but really -probably the first two things I knew regarding Ganesha is that He’s the Remover of Obstacles, and that He’s the son of Shiva, the God of Destruction (among other things and whose name is synonymous with auspiciousness and consciousness. I’ve been meaning to make a post just about Shiva.). With attributes like that instantly my heart was hooked.

As I mentioned in the last post, I find the highest quantity and concentration of divine attributes to be applicable to Ganesha. If Brahman is essentially attributeless, and It is (Neti, Neti, remember?), then it reasons that devotion to anything with attributes best serves as a launch pad for experiencing/merging with something virtually impossible to conceptualize. You have to essentially master the phenomenal world before transcending it and realizing the Foundation of all that is phenomenal. Otherwise you’re trying to go from zero to sixty without really even knowing how to operate the vehicle. Some vehicles come with power windows, but no power seats. Some don’t have power windows, but have power seats, and so on. I want a vehicle with as many bells and whistles as I can find so that operating my vehicle happens as optimally as possible, making that zero-to-sixty acceleration not only more likely, but smoother in the process. And so, as it happens, I found Ganesha.

In my opinion, of all the prominent gods within the Hindu pantheon, Ganesha is the most striking. For me personally, gods like Brahma, Vishnu, Kartikeya/Murugan, Shiva, and just about all forms of Shakti/The Mother are too anthropomorphic. I don’t think this lessens their value in any way, but it makes them less appealing to me. Even one such as Hanuman, who has a human-like form of a monkey, is too human-like to represent something as indescribable as Brahman in my experience. In contrast, Ganesha refuses to fit most moulds. Possessing the head of an elephant, a typically obese thorax and abdomen, and rarely seen with fewer than four arms … the whole mess of which is perched upon a miniscule maushika (mouse) vahana. His form, while full of meaning that I’ll pick apart later, doesn’t fit in. Maybe this pulls more at my own heart strings because of growing up as I did: short, scrawny, unathletic, non-farmer gay kid in the middle of Indiana’s corn fields. Like Ganesha’s misfit head and whacked beginning, I didn’t fit many moulds hoped for me either. On some level, I feel affinity for His image and all it’s various traits may represent.

I think, too, much of what Ganesha is said to symbolize/represent/govern are things I hold dear. This list is actually super big, and I’ll get to that in the next post. I suppose it’s selfish, but finding not only what I hold dear, but much else otherwise kind of makes Ganesha the ultimate in one-stop spiritual shopping for me.

Shortly after learning of Ganesha I purchased my very first murti. At that time, I was already more inclined toward the Shiva side of things, but a murti of Ganesha is what I encountered first and it was almost like I was imprinted instantly. I’ve included a photo of it above. My first “mandir” was nothing other than the top of a cheap dresser and consisted of hardly more than a cloth covering the dresser’s top, a candle, and the Ganesha above. I’m tempted to say that it was during this time that my bhakti was newest and strongest. I certainly didn’t yet possess much spiritual knowledge, but I knew I loved God and I knew that for me, Ganesha was my preferred image of God. At this time, too, I was familiarizing myself with Yogananda and his autobiography, and with the Bhagavad Gita. Because of the lack of knowledge, including knowledge of the concept of Karma Yoga, bhakti was literally my entire religion. I had known devotion before with earlier religious experiences, but during this time in my life it was quite literally just myself and what I understood to be my god -the connection was palpable and real and it’s from this time of my life that I retain spiritual memories that not only are kept tucked away for my remembrance only, but sealed my relationship with Brahman as Ganesha.

Since those days, I’m become more familiar with the other faces of Brahman. I don’t suppose I could ever fully exclude any one of Hinduism’s god. However, I’ve also become increasingly close to the Ideal of Ganesha and have learned so much about Him -and have learned and experienced so much as a result of learning about Him. This brings me to the next post which I intend to deal with the meaning encapsulated in Ganesha’s form as well as jnana yoga. For now, let it be clear that Ganesha is the source of my devotion and its object, and this has brought me to new landscapes of internal wisdom.

Om Shanti

Neti, neti … or, God simply isn’t.

I work in an outpatient cancer treatment center. We offer chemotherapy and radiation therapy to patients who have cancer. As well, we are hematology specialists and see many patients with blood disorders, some of which, as with the cancer patients we see, will eventually claim the lives of the patient.

Resultantly, with death looming, many of our patients are (or become) very religious or spiritual. The spiritual ones I notice the most. They come in, always pleasant-even when near passing. They’re rarely stubborn or difficult when it comes to scheduling or handling their bills. There’s a kind of peace that seems uncommon. This “vibe” that I get from these patients communicates a type of universal, non-sectarian wholeness(…maybe that’s not the right word, but I’m not sure what is…) that carries them and doesn’t seem to waiver.  Then there are the religious.

The religious are an arguably different kind of folk. There are sometimes people who are both spiritual and religious. I feel safe saying that, as far as the norm in humanity is discernible, it’s usually difficult for humans to be both effectively. I dare say that those majoring in spirituality are less attached to religiosity. Conversely, humans excelling in areas of religious practice sometimes “miss the forest for the trees.”

In terms originating from my own religion, the religious are more likely to excel when it comes to bhakti(devotion). Sadly, I think more often than not, their bhakti is truly a quasi-bhakti since it’s often based in exclusionary dogma and other hateful mind patterns. I think it may also be directly dependent upon religious tactics(sadhana?). I also think many people claim to be “spiritual but not religious” as a means of feeling less guilty about being lazy. This cop-out works because no one usually questions it. Both ends of the spectrum have their shortcomings. You need both, balanced, to make progress.

And, while I’m not intending this post to revolve around bashing one or the other, I have an experiential confession to make: The religious are the only ones who ever say “God is good.” This is troubling to me currently.

The problem isn’t that the spiritual think God isn’t good. The problem is that the religious too often view God as partisan, sectarian, sway-able. As far as I’ve noticed there are only two times “God is good” is ever uttered.

The first, less selfish or dangerous, is when someone/a group of people is thankful. Just, simply thankful. This in theory is harmless. Afterall, shouldn’t we all be thankful? Of course we should be. The only error I see in this is one that involves assumption on my part. Knowing “people” as well as I do (having worked in public careers all my life), I’ve come to understand that it is VERY rare indeed to come across a truly selfless act. Most of the prayers that rise from a human heart, regardless of the best intention, derive from some kind of selfishness. If you look closely enough, you’ll see the same. Then, later on, when these wishes are apparently granted by G/god, the resultant conclusion reached by the beneficiary is “God is good.”

The second instance when I’ve noticed this being said can potentially lead to further egoic and ignorant behaviour. People say “God is good” when something bad doesn’t happen to them. The saddest part of this is that it usually means something bad happened to someone else. The upside here is, again, thankfulness. An appreciation for all that one has. But what about those who experienced whatever it was, the avoidance of which caused someone else to think G/god is so good for sparing them?

So here I go… G/god is not good. G/god can’t possibly be.

Before I go further, let me clarify that when I say G/god I don’t mean any divine conception at all which might be labeled to be one’s ishtadevata. Ishtadevatas, in their own ways, are incredibly vital to the human reaching for G/god. But even at that, they are essentially Ultimate Reality dummied down. This is for another post. For now, I’m essentially referring to what Hindus call Brahman.

The Brhdaranyak Upanishad gives us a great example. Summed up, this example of how to define Brahman is “Neti, neti.” This word, neti, is a kind of conjunction. The cleanest translation of neti seems to be something like “not this.” The idea here is that if you take any attribute or quality, and hold it up to the Divine, you’ll see that G/god is so very far above that attribute or quality that the only reasonable answer is, “Neti, neti,” aka not this, not that. Any quality or attribute we attempt to apply to G/god will fall infinitely short. This is because any quality or attribute is essentially personification/anthropomorphism (kind of).

The principle of Neti, Neti infiltrates some of our higher sciences these days. In many arenas, something is defined or measured not by its actual qualities/characteristics/dimensions, but by those qualities/dimensions which are clearly NOT applicable to what’s being studied or defined or measured. Sometimes, when deciding on dinner it’s easier to say what you don’t want, right? In that way, you end up not only knowing what will be for dinner, but also finally come to the actual experience of that dinner.

And so, you see, G/god can’t possibly be good. And in like manner, G/god can’t possibly be bad. Neither is any other term that could in any manner, in any context be applied to a human. It’s for this same reason that I’ve struggled for many years with the Christian concept of Heaven… pearly gates, streets of gold, harps, the whole shebang. How can anything that so closely resembles an earthly experience be true Heaven/Bliss?

G/god is no different. No?

God is good?

I’ve been working on the draft of a post for a while already… something about the nature of G/god. It’s getting kind of long and, I fear, it’s beginning to ramble. I plan to whittle it down and finally post it. I don’t care for things to be hovering over my head for so long.

If you’re reading this, gather your thoughts on the nature of G/god and perhaps on any/all attributes you think may or may not apply and be prepared to share when I make the next post.

Om Shanti!